by Pam Morton
I think Santa's “Naughty and Nice” list was a brilliant idea. Although not sure the criteria for either list, I do believe it reduces the problems I face trying to create my Christmas lists—card lists, party lists, program lists, list lists!
We also have lists for the gift-giving season, but this beautiful season includes "Black Friday," and "Cyber Monday." My peaceful bliss turns to panic and stress as I think about all the people I'd like to remember and the few dollars I have to do it with....
One year I psyched myself up to participate in a Black Friday sale. My visiting sisters thought strategizing the night before would be effective. An ARMY General could not have been more organized as we plotted the "first wave," "second wave," and "final wave" of shopping using each store’s particular deepest discount sale times—5am-7am, 50% off at a hobby store; 7am-11am, a major department store‘s big deals; some offering all-day discounts; other’s "night owl” sales from 10pm-midnight. Yessireeeeeebob! We were ready.
The next morning, my husband muttered something that sounded like, "utter insanity," as I quietly crawled out of bed. In the kitchen, my sisters and I donned our jackets, grabbed sale papers, notebooks, purses, and game plan. To my shock upon arrival at the first store, I realized that 500 other people had the same brilliant idea we did. Immediately, I went into attack mode. I began barking orders: "Peggy, you have electronics!" "Paula, you've got toys!" "I'll cover apparel." "Synchronize watches? Mark. Go! Go! Go! Go!" We opened the van door and scrambled to our assigned areas like a skilled SWAT team.
People were everywhere. Merchandise was flying. Carts rolled and salespeople tried to keep order. I scanned my area looking for the specific items on the list. Nope. Nothing! I circled three or four times and realized that everything was gone within thirty seconds. I met my sisters at the rallying point. All three of us had nothing in our hands. NOTHING! Our battle plan did NOT include failure.
We decided to move on to the next store. "Regroup, people!" We piled out and went to our zones. Peggy excitedly returned with her goods. Paula struck gold as well. I hadn't found my items yet, so they went ahead to the pay line. I circled repeatedly becoming more bummed with each passing moment. I had a 50% coupon and I was determined to use it! Finally, I found something and made my way to the front.
When we arrived back at the van, my sisters began pulling items from their bags. They had done very well and had saved lots of money. Once they finished, they asked me what I had gotten. I hesitantly pulled out my purchase. Total, complete silence! Then they laughed—hard! I had used my 50% off coupon at 5:30 am on the day after Thanksgiving, braving the mobs, and check out lines. I now held in my hand a very pretty, but very small bar of soap.
Shopping continued the rest of the day, but all following comments and ensuing laughs were in regard to my "big" purchase.
Now I had lost an entire day and still had a giant list to complete. As I surveyed my shopping fiasco, our Christmas clock began playing "O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!" The actual lyrics should be, "Oh, December the Crazy Month, how busy can we be?"
Where is the stillness of Bethlehem in all this?
I've decided to start a new tradition this year. Each morning during the month of December, I pour myself a Diet Coke, pull a blanket over my lap, and open my Bible. Then I present Jesus with a gift. One day I give the gift of patience. I wait patiently as His Word speaks to me and I choose to demonstrate patience to those who cross my path. On another day, I give the gift of interruption. I allow Him to interrupt my schedule with people who need a kind word, a hug, or a hot meal. Each gift purposed and practiced.
At first, I thought this a bit too simplistic. After all, isn't that what I'm supposed to be doing every day? Yes, it is. But realistically speaking, I know myself too well. I get caught up in my many "to-dos" and forget the Lord values most my "to-be's."
He demonstrated this when He left the splendor of Heaven to BE with us, Immanuel—The true meaning of Christmas. So if I'm to share the genuine message of this special time, maybe I should be like Jesus and be still. Be available. Be near. And just to be sure, I'll set the bar of soap out as a gentle reminder.
Pam Morton, her husband, John, and two teenaged daughters packed up their fulfilling, understood Midwestern life and moved to Cairo, Egypt in 2009. Her dream of serving overseas became a shocking reality of daily cultural encounters that often left her wondering if she’d actually landed on Mars instead! From Cairo to Khartoum to Upper Egypt to deserts unknown, Pam continues to learn, live and thrive in a sandy, sweaty, hospitable land.
An author, global worker, teacher trainer and self-proclaimed “professional luncher,” Pam wants to share laughter, life and hope with her dear Arab neighbors while providing insight into Middle Eastern customs and everyday life with her friends in the West. www.pamelajmorton.com
by Delores Carr
Late in October, my daughter e-mailed me and said, “Remember you mentioned a while back that your father’s side of the family never gets together since your grandmother passed away? How would you like to do a family reunion the Saturday after Thanksgiving at your house? I will help you.”
So, invitations went out; and simple cook-ahead food like meatballs, homemade soup, and slaw was planned. Family members were asked to contribute finger foods or a dessert. My cousin, who lives about two hours away, contacted all his kids and grandkids, and then let me know he was bringing thirteen. Some I had never met. My uncle, his father and my late father’s brother, planned to come with him. I was so excited!
Altogether, thirty-one people—five generations from ages 91 to 2 months--gathered in our home that evening. Our home is not large, but it was fun being all together in a tight space. We had a great time catching up and becoming acquainted with younger ones and new in-laws. It was a blessing. My uncle, my cousins, and I reminisced of Christmases long past when the family gathered on the Sunday before Christmas in my great-grandmother’s three-room log cabin on her farm in the Ozark hills.
It is too bad that we do not keep family closer when we could but just don’t. I encourage you to make the effort to make and keep the connections. While you are thinking in this vein, consider those who may not have any family or whose family live far away. Who of them can you include in activities or Christmas dinner? Perhaps they would enjoy going to your local Christmas parade with you and then to your home for hot chocolate. Or, maybe a neighbor would love to accompany you to your church’s Christmas services or music programs. It may be a great opportunity for them to hear the story of God’s redemption plan for the first time and find that redemption for themselves.
We are encouraged in Romans 12:13: Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Hospitality is also encouraged in 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8, and 1 Peter 4:9. I think you will find yourself blessed.
Delores and her husband, David, have a long and rich history of ministry. From youth pastor to senior pastor, from church planter to teaching in AG Bible colleges, they have covered this nation from coast to coast. Delores has been director and teacher in pre-school programs, filled the pulpit from time-to-time, and a speaker to women's groups. She loves music and writing, and hopes to one day write a book about her family history in the Ozarks.
by Jill St. John
Before and after. That is how some events forever mark the timelines of our lives. February 9, 2019 is one of those dates for our family. I awoke that cold Saturday morning excited for a fun day with our daughter, who was home from college for the first time. Plans included a favorite coffee shop, playing games by the fire, and a comfort food family dinner.
None of that happened after the phone rang. My brother, Toby, was on the other end, tearfully telling me that our other brother, Tyler, age 41, had just died of a massive heart attack. “No, no, dear Jesus, no…” Things became a blur. I told my husband, Jason, and our teen-age kids. I called Mom, twelve hours away, assuring her we would be there as soon as possible. I left a message for Tyler’s wife, telling her and my two precious teenage nephews how heartbroken we were and that we would be on our way to help and support however they needed. Our church family and neighbors came to our home, prayed with us, brought food, gave money for the trip, offered anything and everything.
Jason and I went the next day and began an excruciating week of funeral planning and arrangements for the family farm that Tyler had been running for three years, since our Dad had suddenly passed away. It started to sink in that my beloved “little” brother (nearly a foot taller than I) was gone.
My heart still aches and tears still spill months later. Life is hard and God is still good. Grief is real. Life and ministry go on. Responsibilities and meetings and services and weddings and others’ needs and losses and surgeries and heartaches. I want to be there and minister as I have for years, and my capacity to be and do for others is diminished in this season of grief.
And then there’s our Jesus—showing us how to move through grief. Jesus’ cousin and personal baptizer, *John (the Baptist), died—tragically and senselessly murdered. Jesus is quoted in Luke 7:28 that none who have lived are greater than John the Baptist. Jesus loved and respected his cousin John; his death was a deep, personal loss for Jesus. In Jesus’ response to this personal crisis, we see a pattern for how to grieve and continue in ministry/leadership: As soon as Jesus heard the news*, He left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. (Matthew 14:13 NLT)
That is exactly what I needed to do when Tyler died. I love to be with people, but I needed to be alone with God. I needed to cry out to Him about this awful loss, praying through the layers and complex effects of losing Tyler. I needed our Great Physician to tend to my emotions, comfort my broken heart, and give me strength. In times of personal crisis, we need to go to a “remote area to be alone”—step back from ministry for a season in order to process and allow God to do His mending work.
Jesus continues to show us how it’s done: But the crowds heard where He was headed and followed…. (Matthew 14:13b NLT) They didn’t leave Him alone! His response? Jesus saw the huge crowd as He stepped from the boat, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14 NLT) After the healings, all those people were hungry and had no food, so Jesus took five loaves and two fish, feeding about 5,000 men, in addition to all the women and children! (Matthew 14:17-21) His divine compassion faileth not! But immediately after this, Jesus sends the disciples across the lake and the people home. “He went up into the hills by Himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:22-23) Jesus: alone, praying. That is His pattern for us to follow in times of personal crisis. We may step back and head off to that remote spot to pray and “the crowd” still shows up with needs to be met. God will give us what we need to minister. And as Jesus did, we must insist upon time alone with God, praying. That is critical for us to heal and continue in effective ministry. Having the support of church family and good, Godly counseling is also essential.
I miss my brother tremendously. Grief is real. Life is hard and God is good. God has faithfully blessed us in many ways, like the day He made the snow stop and the sun shine so we could have the farm equipment sale. There have been many difficult changes. There are more to come. What will I do? Get alone with God. And pray.
Jill St. John, once a high school English teacher, is an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God. She serves as Co-Pastor alongside her husband, Jason. For the last 23 years, they have served at Evangel Church in Kansas City: 6 years as youth pastors, 17 years as lead pastors. Jill has a passion for Jesus and a zeal for teaching God’s Word – helping others walk in God’s love and purpose. As a 4-time cancer survivor, she knows the goodness of God through the highs and lows of life and ministry. Jill is an authentic, enthusiastic messenger of God’s joy and hope. Teaching, cooking, laughing and hanging out with her husband and two children are the delights of her life!
by Rhonda Barnes
Have you ever faced a mountain so big you felt as if you were trying to move it with a plastic spoon? I have described challenging times that way. Sometimes life is full of difficulties and in our own strength, it is much like the description of trying to move a huge amount of earth with a flimsy little plastic utensil.
If you feel that way today, I want to encourage you to take a step back and realize that no amount of striving in your own strength will get it done, even if you have a bulldozer! There are times when only our faith can move the mountain standing in front of us. Jesus said it this way:
When you feel as if the mountain is crushing you, it can be difficult to pray and believe that it will be lifted up and thrown into the sea. This is the moment we choose faith over doubt or faith over fear. I am not suggesting to ignore or deny the circumstance exists, but rather that we use our faith to stand on the promises provided for us in the Bible. Faith recognizes the mountain truly exists, and presents it to God. When we do this, we trust Him and turn our striving into believing His promises are true.
Abraham is a great example of this behavior in Genesis 17:1-8. He didn’t pretend Sarah wasn’t facing a mountain of barrenness. Instead, he chose to believe the promise of God. He was ninety-nine years old when the Lord appeared to him and told him that He would be the father to countless descendants. If you are still childless at ninety-nine years old, it takes great faith to believe this promise.
What an amazing example for us to follow. The Bible tells us Abraham never wavered in his belief that this promise would be fulfilled; in fact, we read that his faith became stronger as time passed.
One of the keys to staying in faith instead of fear is referenced in the emphasized portion of the Scripture above: “God calls things which do not exist as though they did.” Abraham began to call himself a father long before he became a father.
This is what faith looks like. We call things the way the promises of God describes them even before we see them that way in the natural. We hope for the promises of God even before we see them with our eyes (Hebrews 11:1).
This principle also works the opposite way. When we start calling things from a negative perspective that are not as though they are, we create worry and fear. When we use our voice to declare doom and gloom or continue rehearsing the problem we are facing, the result is not faith; it is fear and worry.
Stop and consider what you are declaring! If you feel as if a mountain is crushing you today, don’t lose hope; instead, tell your mountain about your God!
Rhonda Barnes is an author, speaker, Christian blogger, and gifted teacher of God’s Word. Rhonda was credentialed as an Assemblies of God minister in 2002, and currently serves in a variety of ministries at Grace Community Church in Salem, Missouri. Rhonda’s first book, Road to Transformation, Journey to God’s Glory, was released in 2014. Since then, she launched the Christian teaching blog Secret Place Revelation, inspired by Psalm 91:1. In 2017, she released two additional books, Keys to the Kingdom, and It is Written. Rhonda is passionate about sharing the truths of God’s Word and enjoys writing, speaking in many settings, and teaching small groups.
To contact Rhonda, please visit www.secretplacerevelation.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
by Amber Mills
How is my attitude affecting those around me?
This question has been rolling around in my mind the past few days. The thought process started earlier this week while watching my boys play basketball. We were in another state playing a travel team that we see only a few times a year, have a fierce rivalry with, but truly enjoy being around. They are one of those teams that you work all year to beat, but you wouldn’t mind going to Steak-n-Shake with after the game, even if you lose.
This time was different. The atmosphere wasn’t friendly. Fans were edgy. There was yelling and booing. The opposing players were pushing the limits of what is acceptable. Now don’t get me wrong. My boys have played competitive sports for a very long time and I fully appreciate all that comes with it. Games are loud, intense, and very physical, but this went beyond. There were no post game conversations between players or parents.
The entire demeanor of this competition was different than the last. What had changed? Same team. Same players. Same parents. New coach. The leadership had changed. The new coach encouraged this behavior. He congratulated his players when our team was injured. He gave a thumbs up to the booing fan section. He also demeaned his own players when they didn’t perform to his expectations.
The previous coach had been a very intense, but godly man. He had demanded his players give 100% at all times but he valued character above all else. It trickled down throughout the entire program just as this new attitude has.
Do they not see the change? Do they even care how they are being perceived? How are the parents okay with the behavior of their boys and the attitude change on and off of the court? It is as if they are completely oblivious to the change.
The complete 180 of this team stirred something within me. It made me think! It made me examine! Have there been changes in me, my family, and my church that I am oblivious to? Has my leadership, in any way, cheered on or encouraged bad behavior? When others fall, do I give a thumb up to those under me? Does my leadership make those around me strive for greatness or does it glorify the destruction of others?
Our attitudes and actions are magnified in those we have influence over. We cannot control how people behave, but we can control how we influence them. If a church is arrogant, cliquey, and more concerned with whom they have rather than whom they can reach, the leadership is usually of the same mindset. On the other hand, humble leadership usually leads the giving, inviting church to reach out and bless their community.
I did not choose to be a pastor’s wife. None the less, it is the path laid before me, and I wouldn’t want to walk any other. I am in leadership; therefore, I must be mindful of my attitude, my words, my facial expressions (if you know me you will agree that the latter is the one, I struggle with the most!).
Philippians 2:3-4 NLT says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
A trickling faucet left alone can cause your water bill to skyrocket. A bad attitude trickling down from ministry leadership can destroy an entire church.
What am I allowing to trickle from my heart into my family and my church? As a children’s pastor, I want the kids under me to be accepting. As a women’s leader, I want my ladies to be inviting and loving. As the lead pastor’s wife, I want my church to be burdened for the lost and more concerned with our community around us than with our own agendas. But most importantly, as a mom and wife, I want my family to be examples of how to truly love each other.
by Majetta Morris
After a long day of sightseeing while driving from Jackson Hole, WY, and through Yellowstone Park, we sat in a long line of cars waiting, patiently waiting, for a large herd of bison to decide which side of the road—not the middle—they wanted to occupy! We were only about ten miles from our motel at the northeast entrance. At first it was interesting to see the bison up close and personal as they moseyed between the cars until several cows, then bulls, decided to take up residence in the middle of the road. We waited and watched.
It was scary to watch people get out of their vehicles and move in close to take a selfie with a bison. Bison are dangerous! They weigh 2000 to 3000 pounds and can quickly turn on you. This is an extremely dangerous time of year because they are mating—bulls do not want you interfering with their ladies! And the mammas do not want you interfering with their babies! Just a few days before in that area, a man on a motorcycle was killed when a bull gored and trampled him.
But, we sat and watched. You could distinguish the difference between old and young bulls. On the side of the road, old bulls pawed the ground kicking the dust threateningly at the young bulls and us. The females meandered onto the road and some bulls followed. The females flirted. The bulls bellowed and postured. A couple year-old calves cavorted back and forth across the road and in the fields on both sides.
We sat for thirty minutes inching no more than a car-length or two on the two-lane highway. Two or three cars made three-point u-turns to try other exits. Since our reserved motel was only four miles outside the Northeast Exit, we had to wait. It was getting dusky with the sun setting behind us. We became concerned the motel might give our room away because this was a busy time of year and we were late! And we waited. Another five, then ten minutes more.
As anxiety rose in my heart, I cried out to God, “Lord, you control all things. You know our time schedule. You know the bison and what is happening. Father, I ask that you move the bison off the road so we can all go to where we need to be.”
The bison immediately began to move. The ones on the roadway walked off. The ones next to the roadway on either side turned around and proceeded back into the fields or up into the hills. Within three minutes, the roadway was clear. Within five minutes, the long lines of cars on both sides of the road moved at regular speed on to their destinations.
A portion of scripture came to mind. Although it is out of context, the words fit so well. James 4:2c ESV says, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” We had sat there for forty-five minutes to an hour—just sitting!—while we could have been resting in our room and getting some good dinner just because we did not ask. It was late when we checked into our room in this small Montana town. There was nothing still open to obtain dinner, so we ate ramen noodles! Why? Because we had not asked! We waited and did not ask! As soon as we asked, God moved the bison!
How many times do we simply wait and stew in our juices, without considering asking God to help us, to assist us. Just waiting! God sees and desires to help us, but He waits for us to ask.
(Side note: Our experience happened on August 5, 2019. On August 22, Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News showed a news clip of a bison stampede happening at the exact location where the above occurred. Several vehicles were damaged. My daughter said she recognized a couple of the bulls that had been right outside our vehicle. God’s mighty hand gave us protection!)
Contact Majetta at email@example.com for assistance to publish your writing projects.
by Terry Magness
I received a strong message growing up that I could do nothing right. As an adult, this belief led me to become a major people pleasing procrastinator. For an example, as a young married, I took art classes...for twelve years, and probably produced as many paintings. My work never reached the unattainable standard I set for myself. I continued painting on my pieces even after they were framed. A couple of decades ago I wrote two books. The first book took five years to construct, and the second, seven years. Why? Because I continually rewrote them! In my eyes, the books were never good enough for anyone to appreciate. Blogging is something I have had on the radar for years. However, the voices in my head as to why not to write have had the final say.
It was confusing. While involved in ministry in other countries, I experienced a confidence and boldness; but when I return to my own turf, I found fear waiting for me.
Something was wrong.
I did not realize how paralyzing fear could be even to a servant of the Lord. As a pastoral counselor, I was unprepared for the kinds of manipulation I encountered. I found it hard to say "no." I need to prove myself, right? Besides, I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings or to have anyone angry with me. I thought if I demonstrate God's love by being there for people, it would help them find and know the love of Jesus.
That was good intent, but because setting boundaries was difficult for me, I allowed myself to be swallowed up by the needs of others to my own detriment. The inevitable eventually happened. I experienced major burnout. I functioned superficially. My faith and trust in God was intact, but I was unable to relate to people more than skin deep. I was empty. I stepped down from my church staff position as pastoral counselor.
None of us can afford to ignore the signals. Fear in any form must be acknowledged and faced or it may well be our demise. Picture a bullfighter grasping the large ring in the bull's nose. That ring gives the bullfighter a distinct advantage. By that seemingly insignificant ring, he can conceivably pull a 500-pound bull to the ground onto his knees.
Is fear the ring in your nose? The Bible says, as followers of Christ, Satan is an enemy who seeks to stop us from accomplishing what God has called us to do. As long as we have a ring in our nose, Satan has the advantage. We can be faithful, powerful Christians, but the enemy will look for and find our weakness. He will target that fear, grab hold, and bring us down. Once he brings us to our knees, Satan then whispers lies in our ear. His lies convince us we cannot be what God created us to be or do what He called us to do. He accuses us again and again of our failures until we believe we cannot succeed. We lose confidence, our sense of self-worth, and our desire to try.
Recognizing fear for what it is and how it works in us is half the battle. I finally recognized the fear of man and the fear of failure that had plagued me for years. The recognition gave me courage to change. This was the first step toward ridding myself of fear, and obtaining victory.
Understanding what had happened and why, I began praying and asking God to deliver me from fear, to make me bold as a lion and harmless as a dove. Right away I saw small encouraging signs of answered prayers. Over time fear retreated. Boldness to be who I am to speak the truth in love began growing daily.
Even though fear confronts us from time to time, we know Who we believe! 1 Thessalonians 5:24 ESV tells us, "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." He gives us victory!
And guess what...I'm writing!
by Nora Ross
Since the early church, people have had disagreements, which caused them to separate. Paul and Barnabas worked together to bring the message of the Gospel to many. They decided to return to areas that had been very successful. Barnabas wanted Mark to accompany them and Paul disagreed. There was such disagreement Paul and Barnabas separated. Paul took Silas and Barnabas took John Mark. As a result of this separation, the Gospel was spread to a greater area and number of people.
This passage may sound familiar to you. You may know it from the personal experience of people leaving your church or ministry. People you have worked with for years have left. Maybe, they were there to move you into your home or parsonage when you arrived. Your families have grown together. You are there for them during their triumphs and losses. They are there for you in the good and the bad. You consider them your best friends. You wonder if Barnabas and Paul had this type of relationship. When your friends and partners in ministry leave, it hurts. There have been some who have left without even saying goodbye. There are others you wish would have only said, “Goodbye.” It seems Paul and Barnabas parted on terms that helped them both to succeed in ministry. Paul even seems to have forgiven Mark and speaks favorably of both in his later writings.
There was a time when a family member did something that made the local news. As my husband tried to read the prepared statement, the church wept with us. They followed the request not to discuss the situation. Many of them asked how they could help. When they asked to bring meals and we refused, they delivered them anyway. The newspaper printed our address and people attacked our home. It was only pellet guns; but it was frightening. People from our church offered to come and sit on our porch and protect us. No one left the church as a result of that situation. However, we have had people leave over misunderstood statements and gossip. It seems gossip leads to feelings of entitlement. Everything we know as a Christian is thrown out with the hurt feelings and the need to confide in others. We spiral into a frenzy that becomes difficult to overcome. As pastors and leaders, we need to be careful not to partake in the “prayer request” mentality that says I can talk about this to this person and this person and that person whether they are a part of the problem, or a part of the solution. We are the leaders and should lead by example. We need to question our motives as we share information and listen to information. As we receive and give information, we need to think about whether we would want a member of our congregation hearing or saying this. If it is not appropriate for them, it is not appropriate for us.
A lead pastor once told us that people are as loyal as the last thing you did for them. If we had lived by that choice nugget of pastoral wisdom, we would no longer be in ministry. We would have burned out trying to keep everyone loyal; or, we would have become bitter because we felt we had to give to keep people loyal to us. We minister as God leads us, not with the thoughts of who will leave next, or wondering how long someone will stay. As we live righteously with servants’ hearts, God will provide for us and for those who leave, just as He did for Paul and Barnabas.
by Anna Maschmeyer
A ministry family seems to either exist in the assurance of their mission and longevity of their position or in a state of uncertainty and desire for transition. My ministry family recently took a leap and moved to a new church and city across the state. Transition means many things in the ministry, but for me it meant an opportunity to move in faith into untried territory.
For years I served the church as pastor and volunteer and taught full-time in a public high school. It was the most rewarding and exhausting life. The students are apathetic, curriculum is challenging to implement, assessments are labor intensive, actual learning is complex to assess, and federal and administrative regulation is exhausting. I loved teaching, but the all-encompassing nature of my pastor life and my teacher life took everything out of me.
Roughly three years ago, I began to pray for a better way to do life. I wanted to devote more time to our family and serve the church in a healthier capacity. Our family deserved more of me than it was getting. I intensely wanted to reserve the best of me for my girls, husband, and church. As I sought the Lord for a way to accomplish this, two things became clear. First, God spoke deeply into my heart that my calling was not about my career, but about being more like Him. I had preached this for years. Yet suddenly, it wasn’t just something to say. Jesus did not need my effort at school, my worries over the job, my time preparing lessons and grading; He needed my heart. My job was distracting me from giving Him my full attention. I was in essence serving two masters.
A year ago, we began thinking about transition to a new position. One of the things I wrote in my journal as we began to pray over the transition was, “Lord, I want to be free of the classroom.” I was not trying to be a stay-at-home-mom. As a driven, independent woman, I champion college and career ambition for my female students. So I looked for a position in a school, but out of the classroom. I thought just being out of the classroom would be enough.
When we relocated, the timing of the move meant teaching jobs were not available. As I’ve sought the Lord and explored options, more and more I was called to walk away from my career to be more like Jesus. Since August, I have started teaching our oldest to cook and do laundry. We finally have a regular chore schedule (something I never had time to put together before) for all three girls. My husband and I have been on a date every week since we’ve moved. I've written a 5-week Sunday School curriculum and taught it. The girls and I have had deep conversations about real things like politics, Jesus, and how to make friends. A couple of times my husband has asked, “Who are you?” because I am not falling asleep on the couch at 7 PM or cranky for no reason.
Don’t get me wrong, many of those things I listed above happened in small doses while I was teaching. My girls had chores; we did homework together; we read at night sometimes. My husband and I did date. Our family was not falling apart, but there wasn’t the structure or purpose in our home that I wanted. It was good, but not great. I had two masters constantly pulling me in different directions. The message is that there are good things we can do in our lives and there are God things. Our family was doing good things, but the God things were being squeezed out by exhaustion, stress, time, and mess. Although the budget is tight, I have not been this happy, nor this at peace, in a long time.
The lesson I am learning is that discerning His will is seldom about finding a place or a career, but it is always about becoming more like Him. Peace is there for us when we finally submit every area of ourselves, including our careers, to His Lordship. Our obedience even in the anxiety of transition makes us more like Jesus.
QUESTIONS: What have you learned in a ministry transition? About your faith? About yourself?
by Majetta Morris
A fellow children’s minister approached me in the foyer of our church to ask if I had a baby puppet he could borrow for a ministry engagement. I told him I didn’t, but as the discussion continued, I learned a doll would be appropriate. I informed him I had a life-sized baby doll I use as Baby Jesus at Christmas because it is newborn infant-like. He assured me that he would only need to use the doll during the month of July and it would be returned well before Christmas.
“I don’t need Jesus during July,” I informed him as I walked away. When I saw the aghast looks on bystander’s faces, I immediately realized the faux pas. I turned back blubbering and stumbling over words as I tried to backtrack and rephrase, “I mean, I don’t need the Jesus doll during July.” The damage was already done! The words already said! Others in the vicinity were either staring open-mouthed or laughing aloud.
I’m ashamed to say that sometimes my attitude says, “Jesus, I don’t need you today…or this month. I can handle this by myself.” I plan my day so full of all the things I want to do for Jesus that I fail to ask Him what He would like to do with/through me. Sometimes I go so intensely through my day without realizing that the expression on my face or the acerbity of my speech is telling others that I don’t think I need Jesus to go with me that day. The negative side is that it usually multiplies into more than just one day. It becomes an unintended vacation from Jesus.
It is easy to get so busy working for Him that our relationship with Jesus is put aside; or we take for granted that He will just come along. To start the day, we may have even taken time for a quick devotion to tell Jesus how He can meet our need for the day, instead of asking how we can worship and be with Him throughout the day.
Each day I need to intentionally invite Jesus not to just follow me around, but to walk beside me and before me, allowing me to follow in His steps. Throughout each day, I talk with Him as a friend. I cannot ever go a day, let alone a month, without Jesus. I need Jesus every day in July and every other month! Not just at Christmas.
Majetta Morris, a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God, began her first Sunday School teaching assignment when she was twelve. With husband, Wayne, and daughters, Scarlett and Keena, she ministered throughout the southwest U.S. in Kids Krusades for ten years before going to Okinawa, Japan to minister in schools, churches, and the local community for a total of sixteen years. After retiring in Springfield, MO in 2007, she began professionally editing as a freelancer at the request of a friend. Majetta loves reading, writing, crafting, teaching, and editing. Contact Majetta at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance to publish your writing projects.
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